Stolen consumer data from Equifax is reportedly being used by criminals, who heisted the information to apply for student loans, credit cards and even mortgages. The Chicago Tribune reports a class action lawsuit alleges this, as well as individuals using the compromised information to tap into consumer’s bank accounts, file claims with insurers, steal tax refunds and rack up sizable debt.
The lawsuit involves dozens of consumers who filed complaints from each state, as well as in the District of Colombia. The data taken from Equifax included credit card accounts, driver’s license numbers, Social Security numbers and other information that could be used to drill into individual’s accounts and finances. The breach of information from the purportedly secure databases of Equifax affected nearly 15 million people in the U.S.
The class in this case is likely to become enormous, and asserts the credit bureau violated a number of state and federal laws.
In one instance, a woman in Virginia reported she had experienced numerous fraudulent credit card charges on five different accounts. Another two phony credit card accounts have been opened in her name.
A man in Georgia alleges schemers have applied for numerous unauthorized mortgages using his information without authorization.
A woman in Vermont asserts she is being hounded by debt collection agencies for repayment of loans for which she never applied in the first place.
The list goes on and on. Consumer rights lawyers in Miami understand the lawsuit alleges a spectacular failure in the credit bureau’s legal duty to protect confidential and sensitive information belonging to consumers. Specifically, claimants assert the company failed to implement certain security protocol upgrades, instead making due with inadequate “patches” completed by software providers – presumably to save on costs. Further, plaintiffs allege the bureau was slow to inform consumers about the possibility that their information had been stolen, which meant the loss of critical time that could have been used to minimize the damage. Now, many say they have had their credit decimated.
The most vulnerable to this theft were reportedly mortgage applicants, who submit a significant amount of vital information to each of the bureaus when applying for such a substantial loan.
Plaintiffs allege violation of several federal laws, including the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Other alleged state violations are spelled out in the filing, which spans more than 320 pages.
Attorneys for the claimants say the company did not do enough to address data security issues, even when there were red flags to indicate serious problems. For example, a risk analysis firm hired by Equifax provided the company a report in April indicating that there was a 50 percent chance there would be a security breach with the bureau in the course of one year. Despite this, private encryption keys were left on its server, which meant hackers were able to break into the system and obtain this information.
Attorneys will need to show a causal connection between plaintiff’s allegations of identity theft and Equifax’s own failures. That could prove a significant legal hurdle, but it does seem there is a substantial amount of evidence.
If you’re battling debt collection in Miami or the surrounding areas contact Jacobs|Keeley for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call (305) 358-7991. Also, don’t miss Miami Foreclosure Attorney Bruce Jacobs on 880AM/the Biz, every Wednesday at 5 p.m. on “Debt Warriors with Bruce Jacobs and Court Keeley,” discussing foreclosure topics that matter to YOU.
Equifax breach already taking a toll on consumers, Nov. 21, 2017, By Kenneth R. Harney, The Chicago Tribune
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